Monday, May 03, 2010

Am I Anti-Union?

An anonymous commenter on a recent post made the observation that I am “anti-union.” I can easily see how someone could reach that conclusion. I have not held back on attacking the food workers union for their relentless attempts to keep non union grocers such as Harris Teeter and Wegmans out of Howard County.

Still, that comment got me thinking about how my view of unions has been shaped by personal experience.

My first real awareness of unions came from my grandfather who worked in the shoe factories for the Endicott Johnson Corporation in Johnson City, New York. This was hard work for low pay in dark factories that typically provided fertile ground for union organizing yet, in my grandfathers time at least, the cordwainers union never gained a foothold at Endicott Johnson. The reason was that the employer believed that the best way to discourage unionizing was to take care of the employees in the first place. Endicott Johnsons employee benefits were considered “generous and innovative” for their time and included profit sharing and employer provided health care.

During the summers of my college years I frequently picked up part time work with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees union at Merriweather Post Pavilion. Though I wasn’t a full fledged union member I still had union dues deducted from my paycheck. I didn’t complain. The hourly wage was three times more than my steady summer job and I got to work a spot light for the rock shows. The truth is I would have happily performed this job for half of the money they paid me.

Ten years ago I worked on a development project in the Troy Hill Commerce Center in Elkridge that was financed by a fund controlled by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. The stipulation that we use union labor for everything including phone and data cabling put us at a competitive disadvantage in attracting tenants. Our cost for building out a tenant’s space was always considerably higher than most other buildings in the market that we competed against.

The bottom line is that I don’t consider myself to fanatically anti union but I wouldn’t say I’m exactly pro union either. I do believe that unions have played a critical role in improving conditions for the American worker but many times in recent history their rules and tactics have run counter to what I believe to be in the best interest of the public at large.

No doubt some will disagree so fire away.


Freemarket said...

Unions benefit their privileged members at the expense of consumers (but usually under the guise of helping consumers). Anyone who understands unions is opposed to them.

PZGURU said...

The world must be coming to an end, because this makes 2 recent posts that I basically agree with you on WB. In the words of Frank Barone, "holy crap".
I'm probably a tad more on the anti-union side of things though. I tend to feel that unions have become more of a mechanism for "extorting" higher wages than what are deserved. And, I'm 100% against the stealing of non-union-workers' money from their paychecks, especially when union money is lopsidedly contributed to one political party.

Anonymous said...

You are not anti-union you are pro food. This is a quality of life issue. Union folks like to eat well too. The fact is we in Howard County have some of the worst supermarkets I have ever seen anywhere in this country. Up until now we have been the victims of poor quality, poor selection and high prices. Hey folks get out more. This in one of America's richest counties. If you go to the Mid West, Florida, Texas or California you will be blown away by the quality of the supermarkets there.
Rouse made a real mistake in granting a monoply to a few chains and forgeting what competition can bring to the food business.

Anonymous said...

Rouse made a mistake? HUSH your mouth!

Anonymous said...

A fair and well written post. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Funny thing. People who criticize unions for getting good wages or benefits for their members aren't really saying what they mean. They really mean that they think the union's members should earn less.

I'm not sure whether that attitude is motivated by jealousy or some kind of snobbish "I'm better than them, so why should they make that much" pov.

I've never actually met anyone who thought "they" were overpaid. It's always the other guy that shouldn't make that much.

Anonymous said...

I used to think unions where great, perhaps they were before we were developed. Public unions are another matter altogether. Here in NJ the statewide unions criminally extort millions in undue wages and benefits for their members and I do mean criminally. They are the new mob. imagine the kindergarten teacher is now a mobster.

Anonymous said...

being a member of the usps, but opting out of the union, i feel that i am paid fine, more than most of the population in my area. the part i am not fine with is that there ARE union members that sandbag their work to fit the quota of the standard, regardless of how much or little work there is. me and several other carriers do our work, and go home, regardless of what is printed on a piece of paper. now, we are getting routes rearranged and some of us are getting just plain screwed, yet, the workers that drag their feet go unpunished for basically robbing the clock. what is the purpose of a union again? fair what?